Alex Rodriguez has become the new Yankee October hero this postseason with unbelievably timed hits and home runs. In Game Two of the ALCS versus the Angels, A-Rod did it again. Leading off the inning against Angels closer Brian Fuentes, who saved 48 games this season*, the Yanks' chances didn't look so hot.
*You may hear announcers say that Fuentes was great this year, and that's why he was an all-star, and that's why he saved 48 games. Don't believe them, he hasn't been good at all. His ERA was a mediocre 3.93, but his FIP and tRA were significantly worse, and his K:BB ratio was 1.92, the worst rate of his career and below league average. The fact that Fuentes saved 48 games this year does not excuse the fact that he pitched very poorly all season and should not be feared.
Rodriguez fell behind 0-2 after taking two very borderline pitches, and the odds continued to dwindle. The fact that Freddy Guzman and Brett Gardner were waiting on deck didn't do much to inspire. That was, until Jeff Mathis or Brian Fuentes had the brilliant idea to throw A-Rod a 90 mile per hour fastball at the top of the strike zone on the outer half of the plate.
As you already know, Rodriguez took that fastball and hit a game-tying home run to the short porch in right field. The hit would have been a home run in only two other parks , but what does that matter? The game was played in Yankee stadium, and I didn't see any Angels easily hitting home runs to right field.
Now, lets get back to the original question. Is A-Rod the most clutch hitter on the Yankees? Is he the guy you want up in that important situation in the late innings? Well, my answer would be a resounding "Yes."
However, if you asked me that question before the playoffs started, you would have gotten the exact same answer from me. I've been called crazy many a time for saying I'd prefer A-Rod up in an important situation over Jeter, but I think the people who want Jeter up are the crazy ones.
It has been proven that a clutch hitting talent does exist, but only to a very small extent. Even if Jeter does possess this clutch hitting skill, it still wouldn't make him as dangerous of a hitter as Alex Rodriguez is. Let me show you a set of mystery numbers:
Player A: .317/.388/.459 with a wOBA of .375
Player B: .311/.380/.480 with a wOBA of .377
Those two sets of numbers are very similar, right? Well, yeah, that's because they come from the same player. Player A is Derek Jeter's career regular season batting line, and Player B is Derek Jeter's career postseason batting line. This is exactly what you should expect. Over a large enough sample, a hitters career playoff line will be very close to his regular season line.
There is no doubt that Alex Rodriguez has been the most clutch performer thus far in the 2009 playoffs, but this doesn't change his outlook at all going forward. He should still be expected to hit the way he has his entire career—very damn well.
If you ask me to choose which hitter I want in the most crucial at bat of the game, I'll throw out all of the clutch statistics you can throw at me and just go with the guy who is the better hitter. When you're talking about Alex Rodriguez, he only loses that battle to a few guys on the planet.